Emergency vehicle manufacturer Venari Group, run by Huddersfield entrepreneur Oliver North, is building military grade ambulances to support medics working on the frontline in Ukraine.

After a request for help from the Ukrainian Embassy in London, Venari CEO Mr North switched 120,000 sq ft of shopfloor space at its sites in Brighouse and Goole to production of ambulances for the war-torn country.

The ambulances are being built on former British army vehicles and are now being comprehensively stripped, overhauled, modernised and converted into ambulances by Venari’s highly-skilled team, who are working 24 hours a day – throughout the weekend – to speed up production time.

Ukraine is currently losing ambulances at an increasingly rapid rate of 10 per day, so Venari is building vehicles designed to carry greater numbers of casualties.

With all-terrain capability, they will allow increased manoeuvrability for both paramedics and patients and allow medical teams to treat people who they may not otherwise be able to reach.

The workforce at Venari

The armoured variants will provide ballistic protection from small arms fire on the front line to allow safer extractions.

Mr North and Goole MP Andrew Percy worked around the clock to communicate with the Ukrainian embassy and donors, and Venari’s engineering and production team sprung into immediate action, to ensure that every inch of the vehicles are designed with the sole intention of saving as many lives as possible.

“When we got the call, we jumped into action immediately,” said Mr North. “As the UK’s oldest and largest ambulance builder, we truly feel that it is our duty to deliver on this project, with as much passion, precision, and speed as we possibly can.

“Andrew Percy has been an integral part of the project, and wholeheartedly shares our sense of obligation to drive the project for the inspirational people of Ukraine.

“Our team have been relentless and tireless in their efforts, knowing that each vehicle completion will play a part in saving lives. And as many of us are former military personnel, we feel like we’re operating in a very familiar arena.

Production has been turned over to military ambulances for Ukraine

“Although many of us are subsequently spending little or no time at home at the moment, we’re well aware that our sacrifices don’t even come close to those made by the Ukrainian people, so we’re genuinely humbled to be able to play our part.”

Mr Percy added: “I cannot praise Oliver and the workers at Venari enough for their incredible efforts, working through the night to get this project up and running.

“Their efforts have been amazing and they should all be very proud of what they are doing to keep medical professionals and patients in Ukraine safe.”

Mr North originally set up firefighting vehicle manufacturer North Fire in Meltham which was subsequently acquired by Rosenbauer UK.

He later became managing director at Goole-based ambulance maker O&H Vehicle Technology. In 2019 he teamed up with Huddersfield Giants owner Ken Davy for a second time to complete a management buy-out, creating Venari Group.